Posted on

Spreading black consciousness

Social Share

One of the more pleasing observations that I have been able to make recently is the growing acceptance of the concept of Black History Month.

It is heart-warming to hear young radio announcers, for instance, taking the month in their stride, as though it is a long-established and accepted event in our local experience. This is in addition to the usual proponents who annually organize activities to mark the occasion.{{more}}

This represents a big step forward, for it has not been easy to get our people to walk along that path. When the idea of celebrating Black History Month was first floated many years ago, it was greeted with a good deal of scepticism-by our own Black people. We were questioned as to its relevance, told that it was a Black American thing, and one intellectual even remarked that there was no such thing as “Black History”, only history. The same was said of early local attempts to have a National Heroes Day to replace the colonial and misleading concept of Discovery Day. A similar thinking still exists in relation to the claims of Black people for reparation.

It has been a long uphill battle to try and gain acceptance of Black History Month and any such related concepts and ideas. Gradually though, we are getting there, not as far or as fast as we ought to, but we are breaking the colonial mould. A combination of factors, among them greater access to information and higher educational levels, is at least contributing to this advance. Yet, we still have a long way to go before there is the universal acceptance of Black History, Black History Month and Black consciousness in general.

The “Education Revolution” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been a positive influence in terms of broadening access to education at all levels. Whatever the shortcomings, it is perhaps the most significant social development over the past 50 years. Having been taken to that level, it is important for us to move up another notch. We must now deepen and widen the content of that education. It is necessary to improve on our academic, technical and technological education, but it is also vital that we, as victims of colonialism, slavery, racism and gender and class bias, recognize the need for another type of education as well.

Social consciousness and an awareness of our historical realities are also vital elements of our emancipation. The celebration of Black History Month is one of the ways we can begin to address these deficiencies. Some of our social problems have their roots in a lack of appreciation of who we are, the absence of pride in ourselves and the achievements of Black people the world over. Black History Month provides us with such opportunities. It is also very opportune that the month precedes the celebration of National Heroes Month in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, allowing for some continuity.

Connections can be made as well with similar events to follow, such as African Liberation Day in May and Emancipation and Indian Arrival activities later in the year. These help to compose the social mosaic of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We need to pay much more attention to this side of our development, to encourage our young people to do more research into our history and social evolution and to write and speak about it. The archaeological revelations at Argyle tell us that there is much to be learnt about ourselves. The celebration of Black History, National Heroes and Emancipation months can only help in this re-awakening.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.